Hypomesus pretiosus

Hypomesus pretiosus
Hypomesus pretiosus, Surf smelt
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Osmeriformes
Family: Osmeridae
Genus: Hypomesus
Species: H. pretiosus
Binomial name
Hypomesus pretiosus
(Girard, 1854)

Hypomesus pretiosus, or surf smelt, is a marine smelt with a range from Prince William Sound, Alaska to Long Beach, California, although its population declines south of San Francisco. The surf smelt grows to be about 10 inches in southern waters, and 8 3/4 inches in northern waters near Canada. On average, surf smelt weigh about 10 to the pound.[1]

Spawning occurs in the daytime, which is why it is sometimes called the day smelt,[2] peaking in the months from May to October. With a maximum age of three to four years, some females will spawn at the age of one, and all will spawn at the age of two. Females lay from 1,500-30,000 sticky eggs in the surf zone per spawn, which they may do three to five or more times in a season.[1]

H. pretiosus feed polychaete worms, larval fish and jellyfish, but they primarily feed on small crustaceans. They can be important parts of salmon and halibut diets, and are the most economically important fish among California smelts. Around 225,000 kilograms are harvested there every year.[3][1]


  1. ^ a b c Fitch JE, Lavenberg RJ. Tidepool and nearshore fishes of California. University of California Press; 1975. ISBN 9780520028456. p. 92.
  2. ^ Eschmeyer WN, Peterson RT, Herald ES. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes: North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1999. ISBN 9780618002122. p. 80.
  3. ^ Moyle PB. Inland fishes of California. 2nd ed. California: University of California Press; 2002. ISBN 9780520227545. p. 226.